Can Exposure To Wildfire Smokes Cause Long Term Respiratory Problems?

Deadly wildfires ravage the regions of USA and Canada; what are the health impacts they might face in the near future?

Deadly wildfires ravage the regions of USA and Canada; what are the health impacts they might face in the near future?

Written by Kinkini Gupta |Published : August 18, 2023 5:00 PM IST

The frequency of wildfires has increased ten-fold in recent years and this is because of climate change, note experts. In recent news, some parts of Canada and the US island state of Hawaii are battling with a disastrous wildfire. In Canada, almost 236 active wildfires burn across the region. Thousands of residents are rushing to evacuate the region and many face severely dangerous road conditions during the evacuation. Reports say that the wildfire in Hawaii has killed at least 110 people and that is not the final death toll. Officials say that the toll will be a lot higher than that. Reports also say that this is the deadliest wildfire the US has ever witnessed since 1918.

Now let us remember that death and severe injuries are not the only consequences of a wildfire. When such a disaster occurs, it always comes with long term consequences on the health of humans as well as animals.

Why Is Wildfire Smoke Harmful?

The smoke that emanates from wildfires is made of particulate matters like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. Particle pollution, which happens due to wildfires are a mix of very tiny solid as well as liquid particles which are suspended in the air during the disaster. These particles are so tiny that that can be easily inhaled by us. They can enter very deep into the lungs and simply lodge there for a really long time. This may trigger heart attacks, asthma attacks, and strokes and kill people years after the disaster. Moreover, these particulate matters stay in the air even after the disaster has subsided and cause massive air pollution and reduce the quality of the air we breathe.

Health Consequences Of Wildfire

Wildfire smokes are very harmful to our lungs. The consequences can be more severe on children and older adults who are suffering from diseases like COPD, asthma, bronchitis or a chronic heart disease or diabetes. According to studies conducted on the consequences of wildfires stated exposure to smoke increases as well as exacerbates respiratory diseases. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who were exposed to excess wildfire smoke experienced increased coughing, wheezing, asthmatic symptoms, colds, bronchitis and there was also an increase in the frequency of hospital visits to check up of respiratory function.

The second and the most dangerous threat from wildfire smoke is exposure to carbon monoxide. It is a odourless and colourless gas which is very harmful to our body and could kill us instantly. When we inhale CO, the oxygen content in our body starts to reduce and our organ too stops delivering oxygen to our tissues and cells. Its consequences can range from nausea, headaches, dizziness and also death.

Other Long-term Consequences Of Wildfire Smoke Exposure

As per experts assessments, landscape fire smokes has been causing the deaths of hundred of thousands of people annually. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also sates that along with exacerbating and increasing the rate of diseases, it also leads to and increase in the number of hospitalizations. Over the years, people have been visiting hospitals with increasing health problems often caused by wildfire smoke. The problems are related to asthma, bronchitis, chest pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (commonly known by its acronym, COPD), and respiratory infections; and lung illnesses.

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